Breaking Barriers In Engineering

Department of Defence

To acknowledge International Women in Engineering Day 2024 on June 23, Squadron Leader Kate Yaxley shares her story.

Squadron Leader Kate Yaxley certainly wasn’t expecting an engineering career growing up.

It all might have gone differently had she not landed a stint doing work experience as a teen at National Jet Systems. Many years and accolades later, she is no stranger to the benefits and varied opportunities a career in engineering at Defence has to offer.

Having initially joined the Air Force as an avionics technician, Squadron Leader Yaxley has carved out an extensive career in Defence.

This includes a substantial portfolio of roles in aviation and electronic warfare, while completing a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering, and later a PhD in Electrical Engineering, focusing on autonomous systems and biologically inspired swarm behaviour.

Squadron Leader Yaxley is currently working in electromagnetic warfare (EW) capability in Joint Capabilities Division where she is ensuring EW capability is available for the integrated force.

After more than two decades working in Defence, Squadron Leader Yaxley credits curiosity and a burning desire to obtain answers for her pursuance of a career in engineering, research and design. She additionally points to the strong culture of women being role models and mentors in engineering.

“I have had plenty of role models within Defence who are women, who certainly helped bring more women up,” Squadron Leader Yaxley said.

“As those before have provided me inspiration and guidance throughout my career, I hope I can inspire young people, from diverse backgrounds, to pursue a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths).”

The theme of this year’s International Women in Engineering Day is ‘enhanced by engineering’ recognising the diverse opportunities available for women in the engineering field and highlights the benefits gained when women are represented in STEM careers. This is something that resonates with Squadron Leader Yaxley.

“Women comprise 48 per cent of the Australian working population, yet only 16 per cent of the STEM workforce,” Squadron Leader Yaxley said.

“Australia’s STEM talent pool is limited by the under-representation of girls and women. Increasing female participation in STEM and creating a diverse and inclusive workforce is essential to unlocking innovation and allowing for the development of creative solutions.

“While we may have fewer females in Defence, within engineering we are comparatively ahead of industry, which is something I am proud to be a part of.”

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